As a PSP owner, I always envied Nintendo DS users for their Ace Attorney series. The closest the PSP had was Harvey Birdman and that didn’t begin to scratch the detective itch I had. Fast forward years later and it seems that more and more mystery novel games are making their way to the west for Vita, with the newest one being the sequel to the excellent Danganronpa.
The game opens the same way as the original does, the protagonist, Hajime Hinata, is allowed to join Hope’s peak academy, a prestige school for only the ultimate students in their field. After arriving he faints and is whisked away with the other Ultimate Students to a tropical resort. You are introduced to Usami a unique, dare I say “cute” mascot. She tells everyone that this is a school trip and the only way to return is to collect Hope fragments by making friends and enjoying their stay.
Of course this peace is short-lived, as Monokuma, the creepy bear that we all have come to love, makes an appearance. He takes over the island, brings terrifying mechs to keep the students from exploring too much and tells them that the only way they can escape is by participating and winning in the killing game. For a student to be set free he must commit a murder and get away with it. If the murderer is found out during the class trial he is sentenced to death. If on the other hand someone else is selected, the murderer is set free and everyone else is killed.
One thing to note is that from the outset Danganronpa 2 has major spoilers from the original and they only magnify as the game goes on. Anyone remotely interested is strongly encouraged to grab the first game before diving into this one as it not only serves as a basis for this title but is a great game on its own.
The cases are a lot more convoluted this time around, with even the first one layering a ton of contradicting evidence. The back and forth action in the courtroom will also keep your little grey cells working. Each of the murders is committed in a new location so there is always a new and interesting twist to it.
The major selling point of Danganronpa is the large number of wacky, yet relatable characters. Some of the Ultimate Students this time around include: a cook, a musician, a sports trainer, an animal breeder, a nurse, a kendo master, a princess, a yakuza, a mechanic, a gamer and a photographer. Not only is their profession and look varied, but so are their personalities. For example the animal breed constantly spews nonsense about the ultimate evil and calls his hamsters the Four Dark Devas of Destruction, while a nurse has a tendency to be extremely apologetic and very clumsy at the same time.
And no matter what their first impression may be, all the characters grow as time progresses slowly becoming different people. This is the same thing that made the original Danganronpa so deep, because you felt that the characters were slowly but surely starting to become a more cohesive group, accommodating to the situation at hand. Unlike in the original, many of the characters here feel a lot less egocentric, which can definitely be seen when their motives for killing start to pop up.
Danganronpa 2 plays out like a mix of an adventure game and visual novel. When you are not talking to people you are exploring the island and looking at objects. This is especially important after a murder occurs, because that’s when you have to find clues which you will bring to the courtroom. Thankfully the game constantly moves you forward at a brisk pace, never leaving you to wonder where to go or what to do.
There is even a quick travel system in place that lets you not only get from point A to point B quickly, but also allows you to pin point where all of your friends are on the island if you want to talk to someone quickly. Sadly, some things like selecting words in a conversation in order to talk about that topic have been left out, no longer being present in the game.
Being a sequel it is expected for Danganronpa 2 to have a few additions. Now you will see your character from a third person perspective when you go from location to location. Once you arrive to your destination the game shifts to the standard first person perspective.
There is a lot of variety here. At one point you can even play an arcade game, watch a film and even play a room escape puzzle which is a tribute to the Zero Escape series.
The courtroom segments are fundamentally different from what you may have come to expect from the Ace Attorney series. Instead of calmly speaking one by one, here everyone blurts out what they have in a ongoing fiery discussion. During this you have to move a cursor and shoot facts at contradictory statements in order to proceed. Your facts will be loaded into your revolver and it is up to you choose the correct fact or even pick up a previous statement to use on a future one.
A new inclusion in the sequel is Consent or the ability to agree with someone’s statements, presenting proof that supports that statement instead of finding contradictions. Despite feeling a bit like busy work, this segment still holds up well and doesn’t take away from the atmosphere.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the other courtroom mini-games. The three mini-games from the original return a little reworked, generally ending up feeling more or less the same, but the game includes two new ones, Rebuttal Showdown and Logical Dive. Rebuttal Showdown is similar to Fruit Ninja, but here you must cut the statements and counter with clues at correct times. Logical Dive is a snowboarding mini game where you have to piece information in your head by selecting the correct path.
All they seem to be doing is taking the focus away from the mystery, as they don’t feel particularly well fitted in the courtroom. The time pressure also adds an emphasis on the mini-games instead of the mystery, as sometimes you will know the solution to the case, but not what the game wants you to select. Still these aren’t big complaints and players are given the opportunity to tone-down or even raise both the mystery and action difficulty levels for the courtroom segments as they see fit.
In-between murders you will have free time to wander around the island, find hard to spot Monokuma dolls, raise your virtual pet and level up by taking steps.
You can also spend time with your friends, talking to them and giving them presents, in a relationship system akin to that of Persona. While optional, this element adds a nice layer of depth. As you interact with each of these characters you will learn a bit about their past and gain rewards which prove handy in courtroom segments.
Like in its predecessor, the flat but stylish cut-outs are overlaid on a 3D background makes for a striking contrast. This kind of presentation feels genially fresh and doesn’t pull you from the experience despite its initial appearance. The characters are all drawn in a way that purposely emphasizes each of their traits. The loud team manager has a line-art similar to JoJo’s Bizarre adventure, while the perverted chef looks like a caricature you may find on the cover of a cookbook.
The scenery is much more diverse this time around and feels more atmospheric because it is set outdoors, where you can finally see the difference between night and day. This however is both a plus and a minus, because the original’s plain corridors and claustrophobic rooms made the entire experience full of despair, while here you may get a feeling of being too relaxed at times.
As a sequel Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair has both its ups and downs. Some things are better than in the original, while others not so. Still, overall this is an excellent title that every Vita owner should own. For fans of the first game, getting this game is a no brainier. For the rest do yourself a favor and pick up the original first as it will make this game far more enjoyable.